Dying Light 2 Stay Human Review

February 24, 2022
Also on: PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series
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Stay awake

One of the first things you do in Dying Light 2 is create a health kit by combining honey and chamomile leaves. While gamers have made plenty of strange concoctions in virtual worlds over the past few decades, the key item you’ll use in your journey through a zombie-infested wasteland in this title is a tea that makes you sleepy. And while you may occasionally need the soothing properties of that tea after playing through Dying Light 2’s best moments, the rest of the game is spent doing things that make the whole tea-making process seem frivolous, because Dying Light 2 somehow manages to mirror that act more than it should. There’s a lot of gathering involved, you’ll spend plenty of time waiting for something to happen, and only when the everything comes together is pay-off remotely worth it.

If it wasn’t clear from the game’s title, in Dying Light 2, you play as a guy who’s trying to survive a world that’s set about 15 years after the planet went tits-up in the original Dying Light. The catch is your character, Aiden, was given quasi-superpowers by a mad scientist that turned him into a neo-Ezio Auditore who’s able to parkour around and fight zombies with ease. 

It’s easily one of the coolest premises in gaming, but it’s also one that’s totally wasted in 2022’s title. In addition to trying to survive not-France in the post-apocalypse, your main goal in Dying Light 2 is to find your sister while tracking down the dude that gave you your superhuman abilities. To do that, you’ll need to spend about 20 hours doing busywork for the main three factions in the game’s setting of Villedor while also listening to an egregious amount of exposition in a story that’s about as bog-standard as can be. If you’ve played literally any other generic open world game in the past decade, you’ve played through the “something something the road to hell is paved with good intentions something something” story of Dying Light 2.

So please, wear a mask. 

This is made especially bad, too, because there’s a literal ton of it that needs to be slogged through before you can properly enjoy the game. While interesting characters occasionally appear, the majority of your time in-game will be spent listening to boring dialogue dumps or doing fetch quests to a story that ultimately don’t lead anywhere. Even if you start spamming spacebar to skip dialogue, you’ll still spend a lot of time walking around faction bases and waiting for NPCs to call you back or contemplating dialogue choices that have almost no effect on the game’s story. These frequent breaks from the gameplay, like sitting around waiting for a tea to seep, is a huge reason why Dying Light 2 is such a mediocre experience. 

However, thankfully, when you aren’t doing dialogue-y stuff, Dying Light 2 does have some enjoyable gameplay. As a not-Assassin's Creed protagonist, you’re free to jump, leap and paraglide around the map, and when you can do those things freely, it feels fantastic. While the wall-running and jumping mechanics aren’t quite as polished as other titles, climbing a huge tower after smacking dozens of zombies with some great melee combat feels beyond amazing. There’s also the standard set of open world mechanics to sink your teeth into if that’s your thing, which isn’t quite as satisfying as the actual parkouring but it is there.

The game also has a unique take on the day-night cycle. When it’s light out, most zombies stay inside, and at night, they become more powerful and take to the streets. This means that if you want to stay safe, it’s best to hit the virtual hay every night, but staying out also offers you the opportunity to get choice loot while running the risk of becoming someone’s dinner. While the mechanic ultimately doesn’t matter if you’re halfway competent with a virtual axe, it is at least more dynamic than the game’s story. 

But, going back to the tea metaphor, the game often bungles up its ingredients in that story. While playing around in the open world is usually fantastic, many of the game’s story and side missions confine you to small spaces that aren’t parkour-able. Slapping zombies around still feels great in these sequences, especially if you make proper use of the various crafting options that the game offers, but it’s annoying to not be able to stretch your legs in parts of the game.


And, even when you do get outside in the game’s story, there’s an annoying mechanic that limits the time that you can spend climbing. To be clear, your limited climbing stamina also exists in the open world, but in main missions it’s especially prevalent. Throughout Dying Light 2, you’ll often need to climb big structures while evading the undead in timed quests. There’s rarely any room for error during these sequences because of this regardless of difficulty setting, which makes climbing while listening to exposition an exceptionally stupid experience.

These annoyances are made even worse, too, by the bugs you may encounter while playing. In my playthrough, I experienced the now-standard set of open world technical problems that ranged from glitched AI ragdolls to respawning hundreds of meters away from objectives. There are also reports of players’ saves being broken and issues of that ilk, and while you may get lucky and avoid these problems all together, it’s a frustrating experience to have to deal with any of these things in an AAA game in 2022.

What the hell kind of name is Aiden?

It’s also worth noting that Dying Light 2 doesn’t run very well, at least not on the PC I reviewed the game on. Admittedly, my setup is getting old, but I exceed the minimum requirements and I can play the latest and greatest VR games without trouble. However, Dying Light 2 still brought my machine to its knees, and I had to turn every setting to low to get a steady enough framerate to complete my review.

When I eventually figured out what combination of settings worked to get the game to run, though, Dying Light 2 became a pretty game, technically speaking. The views aren’t exactly unique, and there are certainly better-looking games out there, but the graphics do look passable and there are some decidedly solid animations on display. The music, too, is okay, and the tunes are backed up by a good-enough cast of actors who are clearly trying their best with their insanely bland script. 

But, despite its passable technical aspects, Dying Light 2 is still a tough sell. When everything in the game comes together, it makes for a perfect blend of action, adventure and horror that’s so good it’s almost unbelievable. However, most of the game is spent slogging through a stupid story, dealing with technical troubles and contending with gameplay mechanics that make the entire experience feel futile. If you’re desperate for an open-world title to kill time until The Elder Scrolls 6 comes out, then play God of War on PC. If you’re still looking for a decent-enough world to spend time in after that, then you could certainly do worse than Dying Light 2. But for everyone else, making an actual pot of tea will almost certainly be a much better use of your time.

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When every aspect of Dying Light 2 comes together, it’s an experience to behold, but the problem is that it happens so rarely that the game struggles to justify the price of admission.
Derek Johnson

Somebody once told me the world was going to roll me, and they were right. I love games that let me take good-looking screenshots and ones that make me depressed, so long as the game doesn't overstay its welcome.